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Public Health asks those testing positive to call

Officials say delays in reporting make mitigation more difficult

As cases of COVID-19 rapidly increase, the delay between test results and Webster County Public Health’s notification of new cases has impeded contact tracing’s ability to quickly mitigate the spread of the virus.

In a news release Monday, Webster County Public Health (WCPH) asked every resident who has tested positive since Nov. 5 and has not yet been contacted to call the COVID-19 hotline immediately at 515-227-7153 and leave a message with their name and cell phone number.

As the county sees a surge in cluster cases stemming from gatherings, contact tracing will become more imperative to contain further spread of the virus.

With a variety of ways to get tested, some may wait a few days to get their results. After results are known, it can take two to four days for those results to be reported to WCPH through the state’s reporting system. WCPH does not know who to follow up with for contact tracing until that notification comes through.

“If they don’t show up in the system, we don’t know they’re a positive test,” said Kelli Bloomquist, public information officer for WCPH.

And the longer contacts of a COVID-19 patient go without knowing they’ve been exposed, the further they could potentially spread the virus.

“We just want to make sure that whatever testing route people take, we are able to get them into quarantine immediately so we’re not having more exposures,” she said. “We don’t want people who are positive or potentially exposed out there walking around exposing people.”

As the sheer number of cases surges in Webster County, the delay between testing and public health reporting becomes a concern of a greater magnitude.

WCPH continues to see rapidly increasing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Webster County, according to Monday’s news release, which described this moment as a “pivotal point in the health of our county,” stronger language than the agency has used in virtually any COVID-19 update since the pandemic began.

“It remains crucial that residents understand the urgent challenges that our public health and healthcare systems, as well as our skilled nursing facilities, are now facing,” the release said. “Our contact tracing continues to identify positive cases through cluster events with multiple COVID-19 contacts, which creates additional positive cases and direct exposures. “

Webster County Public Health continues to ask the community to do its part by:

• Wearing a mask every time in public.

• Washing hands frequently, or using hand sanitizer when that’s not an option.

• Practicing social distancing, and limiting groups to less than 10 people.

• Get a flu shot.

• Stay home when sick, especially when unsure of what to attribute symptoms to.

• Stay home after a direct exposure to COVID-19 and while awaiting test results for the virus.

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